Thursday, July 25, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse

Storm of Locusts is the second book in the Sixth World series by Rebecca Roanhorse that began with the award-winning Trail of Lightning (see my review). The Sixth World is set in a future/alternate United States where more than half of the land mass has been inundated and billions of people worldwide have been killed by an apocalyptic event called The Big Water. Basically everything west of Colorado and east of Kansas is destroyed in the deluge. So the setting for our story is Dinétah, the land of the Diné (which is the word in Navajo used to describe the Native American tribe).

One of the primary features of Storm of Locusts is the pleasant feeling of reading a book with characters and world building which are new and unfamiliar. After all, the book can be classified as an action-packed, post-apocalyptic, urban fantasy with a powerful, violent woman of color protagonist. You don’t read one of those days every day!

The main character is Maggie Hoskins, a 20-something Navajo woman who is known as the Godslayer and Monsterslayer for some of the events that happened in Trail of Lightning. The sequel Storm of Locusts is both better and worse than the first book, in different aspects. There’s more action in Storm of Locusts and far less of the emotional energy is centered on the romantic tension between Maggie and the handsome stranger Kai Arviso which loomed large in Trail of Lightning. To me, these were good things. However, some of the things I was disappointed by in Storm of Locusts were the too-brief appearance of the openly gay, multiracial character from the first book and the fact its problematic pacing was repeated in the second (basically most of the primary plot points in both books are resolved apparently hastily in the concluding 10 pages). I was neutral on the addition of a new, teenaged, gender-nonconforming orphan named Ben in the second book. I liked the fact that Maggie’s emotions are most often connected to Ben and her sudden in loco parentis role as Ben’s protector. However, the story is still muddled with the inclusion of a romantic relationship between two side characters. (Other readers who are more positively disposed to romantic elements might view these aspects as pluses.)

Another strength of Storm of Locusts is the reduction in the presence of gods compared to how visible they were in Trail of Lightning. In the Sixth World, people have “clan powers” which tend to manifest themselves after an extremely traumatic or near-death experience. Maggie‘s powers include super-speed, expert facility with weapons and a killer instinct. Additionally, in the Sixth World various Navajo legends, spirits and gods are walking-about real. I understand that these books are urban fantasy but as an atheist the inclusion of creatures who are actual “goods” and not just people who have god-like powers which may just be really advanced technology always irks me. (This was part of the difficulty I initially had with Robert Jackson Bennett's Divine Cities trilogy but I would argue the supernatural/mystical elements are handled more effectively in those works than they are in the Sixth World books so far.)

Anyway, overall I would say that on balance Storm of Locusts is about as good as Trail of Lightning, and I look forward to reading the still-untitled third book in the Sixth World series when it comes out.

Title: Storm of Locusts.
Rebecca Roanhorse.
Paperback: 313  pages.
 Saga Press.
Date Published: April 23, 2019.
Date Read: July 14, 2019.

★★☆  (4.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).


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